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  • The Weeknd: "I Represent Ethiopia"

    The 26-year-old better known as The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye), who on this Sunday in November is ­preparing to release Starboy, the follow-up to his 2015 pop breakthrough Beauty Behind the Madness -- opens up In rare Interview with Billboard about paparazzi, overcoming stage fright and his roots.

    Excerpt from Abel Tesfaye's interview with Billboard

    You’re representing for different ­places — Toronto, Ethiopia. How do you approach that?
    I made it known that I’m Ethiopian. I put it in my music, and my style of singing is very Ethiopian-inspired. I’ve never even been there. I’d love to go home and see my roots.

    Where would you direct a Weeknd fan in terms of Ethiopian music?
    Aster Aweke, for sure. You can hear her voice at the end of “False Alarm” on the new album. Her voice is the greatest thing you’ll ever hear. There’s a great composer named Mulatu Astatke, he’s probably the most famous Ethiopian musician right now. Jim Jarmusch used his music. I’d love to meet him and work with him somehow. Mahmoud Ahmed is a great singer, and so is Tilahun Gessesse. Teddy Afro is more of a pop singer, great voice. This is what I grew up on. I’d wake up in the morning, and my mom would be listening to all this stuff while she was making coffee. I’m working on University of Toronto getting its own class [on Ethiopian language studies].

    Related: The Weeknd helping resurrect a lost Ethiopian language

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  • Ethiopia base in Somalia attacked: 248 Al-Shabaab militants dead

    Ethiopian forces have foiled planned Al-shabaab attack on its base in Hiran, Somalia yesterday morning leaving 248 Al-Shabaab militants dead including 5 top commanders.

    Al-shabaab militants were 400 in number and attacked the Ethiopian base with car bombs and from four different positions.

    According to Ethiopian colonel Aynom Mesfin, Al-Shabaab launched the assault early in the morning arround 5 a.m. and Ethiopian troops managed to end the battle around 9 a.m. the same day.

    AMISOM authorities: "this is one of Al-Shabaab's heaviest defeats"

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  • Thewodros Tadesse: From liturgical music to jazz

    When Ethiopia celebrated its millennium in 2008, one of the guests was an artist who was returning home after sixteen years, and his fans flocked to the airport to greet him.

    This passionate welcome is rare among the Ethiopian community, and explains his standing as the foremost leader of the current Ethiopian music generation. Tedros Kassahun, a.k.a Teddy Afro, may even enjoy this kind of reception when he arrives at airports in the Middle East and Europe. Thewodros Tadesse is widely appreciated by fellow singers and adored by fans for his unique and vivacious voice. His influence can be heard when you watch Ethiopian Idol and listen to the contestants. Growing up he was a choir member at the Saint George Church (Arada Giorgis), considered as one of the most ancient in the country. His soft, elegant voice graced the choir and songs first composed by St. Yared, who lived between 505 and 571 A.D.

    In spite of the enjoyable times at the Orthodox Church he sought a career in a music industry dominated by massive talents. The likes of Muluken Mellesse and Alemayehu Eshete were the leaders of that “classical” generation in the history of Ethiopian music. Once, while attending a wedding ceremony, he was scared to jump onto the stage to sing a song by Muluken Mellesse, performing it beautifully. This was said to be the turning point for the cheerful young man, with the attractive look and ox-like eyes. Lubanjaye (the pleasantly aromatic substance used in a coffee ceremony), was the title for his first album, which marked his abrupt and successful introduction to the highly competitive music industry. Playing in the now-defunct Club Sterio in Piazza (old city center), and jamming with bands such as Ethio-Star and Waliyas, he laid his musical foundations.

    His stunning musical journey continued with consecutive albums, and his colorful stage performances distinguished him from his contemporaries. Collaborating with Mulatu Astatke (Honorary Ph.D.), the founder of Ethio-jazz, to play Medina na zelesegna (liturgical genres) also thrust him into the public eye. After producing five albums in Ethiopia influenced by traditional Ethiopian music and church songs, he moved to North America in the early 90s. Joining the expatriated Ethiopian music community he performed all over the country. His most significant musical shift was introduced to fans and Ethiopian music audiences when he released the highly-acclaimed Zimita (Silence). This album was a kind of Afro-jazz fusion with elements of modern Ethiopian beats. As a result it received mixed reaction from audiences and music critics, who found it too different from his previous work and more influenced by jazz. However, they also said that it introduced a new sound to the music industry, while others even dared to place it at the top of the Ethiopian discography list.

    Abegasu Kibrework Shiota, the arranger and producer, said that Zimita was the masterpiece in his musical career. Many also applauded the new elements used in the compositions that were previously rarely used by Ethiopian music arrangers and composers. Henok Temesgen (bass guitar), a graduate of the Berklee Music College in Boston, and other talented musicians expertly showcased their immense experience and talent on the album. For many, it remains the benchmark for high-quality production. After releasing the album in 1997, Thewodros laid low for several years until he returned to his homeland for the millennium grand-musical concerts, which also featured the US group, the Black Eyed Peas. In those sleepy years in the US there were rumors about hurdles in his social life, which even led distraught fans to think he might not sing again. Nevertheless, his return after sixteen years wiped out all the rumors, and proved that he was healthy and back on track.

    Although many fans could not attend the millennium concert in which he was the star attraction, a live transmission made it possible to see him in action. Fans were delighted to see him back on stage, again even if his grey hair and unusual singing style were different from before. “He portrayed himself more as an opera singer, as he stretched his hands and took the microphone away from his mouth,” said fan Misrak Bahiru, who was among those aware of the challenges he faced performing after so many years. But the unexpected death of Telahun Gessese, the Ethiopian music legend, showed again his fine voice as he sang a special song at the funeral ceremony. “His voice was different among the artists who participated in the memorial song,” Misrak recalled. He had also released Anchi Ager Endet Nesh, (How are you my motherland), a single track for the Millennium celebrations that received extensive radio play before his arrival home.

    After marrying Yodit Shibru in a private ceremony at the Kuriftu Resort in Bishoftu town, he returned to the US yet struggled on his comeback to the industry. Five years later he revealed that he was collaborating with Indian musicians and finalizing a new album, which became true in August 2013 when it was released in America. Tinantina na Zare (Yesterday and Today) has 22 songs, featuring old and new ballads. It has been less than a month since the album entered the Ethiopian market, and the next disc featuring rearranged songs will be available at Ethiopian Christmas, according to the distributor Romareo Records. The new album has been causing a stir among audiences, and it takes time to listen and appreciate the qualities. “It will take me much more time to get it into context,” says fan Dagim Molla. Some fans logged onto Facebook to post cover photos and views. “This is the type of music I really want to listen to calmly,” one wrote on his timeline. On the other hand, some musicians and critics want to leave “no comment”, as they wait for others to speak, and many still have not heard it.

    Yonas Tadesse, a student at the Yared Music School, said that this album is another change in direction from Zimita. He also thinks that he remains one of the best artists, and is more than capable of moving Ethiopian music onto the international stage. “I understand that he wants to sing jazz and afro-jazz, so as to join the likes of some West African singers,” he said. Citing the career shift of Ejigayehu Shibabaw (Gigi), Yonas appreciates the steps that have been taken by some artists to put Ethiopian music on the global scene.  Indeed, the artist himself told his audiences that he wanted to focus on a different type of music, which can be sung in a jazz style rather than the trend he had followed for years. “I just want fans to listen to me in a calm, settled mood,” the 50-year-old artist said during his meeting with Seifu Fantahun, host of the Seifu Show on Ethiopian Broadcast Service (EBS). Thewodros, who was first influenced by his idol Muluken Mellesse, was once believed by many musicians and critics to have transformed the liturgical sound into the more modern Ethiopian style, but he is not happy with this view anymore. Now he is attempting to rediscover his talent and soul by playing jazz. Although the internationally-known Mulatu Astatke is famous for promoting jazz in Ethiopia, by fusing jazz and funk with his country’s folk and church’s melodies, artists such as Alemayehu Eshete and Girma Beyene are not far behind. These musicians have devoted their lives to blending Ethiopia’s traditional five tones-per-octave or pentatonic scale with western chords. Listening to their music shows a variety of influences on their approach to jazz, according to commentators, with rhythms comparable to those of Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, and James Brown.

    Today’s jazz revival in Ethiopia can be attributed to the success of the Ethiopiques series, and the popularity of the Addis Acoustic Renaissance Group, led by guitarist Girum Mezmur, which focuses on rearranging songs from the 1950s and 60s to invigorate the new generation of Ethiopian club goers with melodies of the past. Perhaps this is why Thewodros wants to become part of this scene, say commentators, and why he chooses to write, play and arrange his music in a jazz-influenced manner. His new songs talk of peace, love and faith, and he sings about Africa in the way that other Africans do, unlike many Ethiopian artists. His songs appear to be an introspective view on his personal ups and downs, commentators add. “This album is a great production from a great musician, and it will demonstrate its difference soon after. The previous album followed the same path,” says Metaferia Bekele, general manager of Romareo Records. According to him, the market is yet to be assessed, and he does not aim to sell millions of copies. “We just wanted to distribute it because of its historic value,” he reiterated. For some it might be a transitional work, differing from the ballads of the past, while others hail him for the change in direction, and may rejoice again after seventeen years of listening to his “greatest-hit”, Zimita.

    Source: thereporterethiopia

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  • Heavy fighting breaks out again between Ethiopia and Eritrea

    Ethiopia’s information minister told RFI on Monday that Ethiopian forces carried out a counter attack against Eritrean troops who had attacked Ethiopian positions. Getachew Reda said the Ethiopian army had neutralised the threat, but did not give details of casualties, saying it was a serious offensive, not just a simple skirmish. Eritrea’s government had late on Sunday issued a statement saying Ethiopia had been responsible for launching an attack in the Tsorana Central Front area. Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after years of war, but fighting broke out again between the two countries from 1998 to 2000. RFI’s Daniel Finnan spoke to Getachew Reda, Ethiopia’s Information Minister…

    Source: Radio France Internationale’s English service

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  • H&M buying clothing from Ethiopia


    STOCKHOL - Clothing retailer H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB is looking to Ethiopia as a new low-cost country in which it will produce clothing, as it races to keep shelves stocked at a growing number of stores around the globe.

    The Swedish clothing retailer relies heavily on Bangladesh for clothes production and a move to Africa would expand its sourcing footprint, but not replace its commitment to production in Asia. One supplier says H&M is looking to source one million garments a month from Ethiopia.

    A spokeswoman said the fashion company has placed test orders with Ethiopian suppliers and says large-scale production can begin as early as this fall. H&M is adding stores in a number of markets, a move needed to help offset stagnant same-store sales in some regions.

    “As a growing global company we have to look at how we guarantee that we have the capacity to deliver products to all our stores where we have a rapid pace of expansion,” H&M spokeswoman Camilla Emilsson-Falk said. “We are doing that by increasing production in our existing production areas and also by looking at new ones.”

    H&M joins a host of rivals looking for alternatives to areas such as southern China, where costs are rising. The Sanford C. Bernstein investment-research firm estimates costs per unit manufactured in Ethiopia were more than half the cost of China as of 2011, which is the latest data available.

    But rising costs in Ethiopia could be a problem in the future. Bernstein analyst Anthony Sleeman said costs rose 18% in Ethiopia in 2011 versus 2010, compared with a 7.7% spike in China. At that rate, Mr. Sleeman expects Ethiopia’s costs per unit will exceed China’s by 2019.

    Still, retailers see advantages in getting a more diverse footprint, and are looking to source closer to the markets they sell in because of a need for lower shipping costs and reduced lead times. Depending on how H&M’s retail network expands, the proximity of production could help offset production cost disparities.

    “We know that [Spain's] Inditex sources from Morocco and Tunisia,” Société Générale analyst Anne Critchlow said. “If [H&M] can play a part in supporting the development of this industry in Ethiopia while benefiting from lower delivery costs and perhaps shorter lead times to Europe than from China, then I think, ‘Why not Ethiopia?’ “

    Ms. Emilsson-Falk said H&M’s test orders in Ethiopia aren’t related to media reports earlier this year that the company was looking for store space in South Africa, and there are no concrete plans for a store in South Africa.

    The spokeswoman reiterated H&M’s long-term commitment to Bangladesh and said the company is growing and increasing sourcing in all the markets where it is active.

    H&M says low production costs aren’t the only thing it looks at as it makes deals with new suppliers. The company says it strives to work with suppliers over the long term that can offer the capacity and quality that H&M needs and that can meet H&M’s conduct rules.

    Ethiopia isn’t a newcomer to the textile and garment industry, and it has aggressive plans for growth in coming years. The first garment factories were built in 1939 during the fascist Italian occupation.

    The Ethiopian government has said it wants to revitalize its textile and garment industry, and has set a target of $1 billion in textile exports by 2016. In order to reach that target, it is bringing in foreign investors to modernize machines and factories.

    The country’s ability to successfully expand its garment industry could help it achieve its goal of moving from primarily an agricultural economy to an industrial one. The nation has been supporting this push for more than a half decade.

    “Ethiopia not only gives infrastructure support but financial support,” said Rajeev Arora, executive director of the African Cotton and Textiles Industries Federation. He cited competitive interest rates, cheap land and labor, and tax breaks from the government as key incentives leading to extraordinary rates of foreign investment over the past five years.

    The nation’s textile and apparel exports totaled about $99 million for the 12 months ended in June, up 17% from the prior year, according to Fassil Tadesse, president of the Ethiopian Textile and Garment Manufacturers Association. Ethiopia hopes to reach $500 million in these types of exports next year.

    Mr. Tadesse added that it will be difficult for the country to reach its goal of $1 billion in such exports by 2016, but not impossible. “There’s a lot in the pipeline,” he said. “Turkish companies, Indian companies and Chinese companies are coming now.”

    The government has eased the process for companies wanting to establish textile manufacturing in Ethiopia by eliminating trips to multiple offices and setting aside industrial parks for the building of factories, he said.

    H&M established its office in Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa about a year ago, and has been buying clothing from a number of manufacturers including Mr. Tadesse’s Kebire manufacturing company. He said he alone sells H&M about 150,000 “test” garments a month. He didn’t provide a dollar figure for the sales, saying that the prices varied depending on the garments.

    “They are trying to form a cluster of companies because their need is one million pieces per month,” Mr. Tadesse said.

    Tesco PLC and the British arm of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., known as George, are also buying clothing from Ethiopian manufacturing plants, Mr. Tadesse said. He said he wasn’t aware of any U.S. investors yet and stressed that while U.S. trade deals with Africa are beneficial, they aren’t enough on their own to develop an industry.

     source: wsj

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